10 things you need to know today: January 12, 2024

Trump slams judge, New York attorney general as fraud trial ends, the US and Britain strike Houthi sites in Yemen, and more

Donald Trump after New York civil fraud trial
Donald Trump after New York civil fraud trial closing arguments
(Image credit: Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

1.Trump slams judge, New York attorney general in fraud trial closure

Former President Donald Trump bashed New York Judge Arthur Engoron during closing arguments in his $370 million civil fraud trial on Thursday, despite being told by the judge not to speak unless he agreed to refrain from criticizing the court or making a campaign speech. Trump claimed he was "an innocent man" being "persecuted" by New York Attorney General Letitia James for political reasons. He also said Engoron had his "own agenda" before the judge told Trump's lawyer to "control your client" and called a lunch break. James accuses Trump of fraudulently inflating his properties' values to get preferential treatment from banks. Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for James' office, said Trump and his co-defendants "acted knowingly and intentionally." The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times

2. US, UK hit Houthi military sites in Yemen

The United States and Britain on Thursday attacked Houthi military targets in Yemen with fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles fired from Navy ships. President Joe Biden said the strikes targeted Houthi-controlled areas where rebels were firing at ships in the Red Sea and endangering "freedom of navigation in one of the world's most vital waterways." Biden said the strikes, supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, showed that the coalition would "not tolerate" Houthi aggression. Nasr Aldeen Amer, vice president of the Houthi Media Authority, called the attacks, which hit the capital Sanaa and other cities, "a brutal aggression against our country, for which they will pay absolutely." NBC News, BBC

3. Putin ally Medvedev issues nuclear warning

A former Russian president and powerful Vladimir Putin ally, Dmitry Medvedev, warned Thursday that any attacks by Ukraine on missile launch sites in Russia using long-range missiles supplied by the United States and other Western allies could prompt a nuclear response. Medvedev, currently serving as deputy chair of Russia's Security Council, said some Ukrainian commanders were considering such strikes. He noted in a post on the Telegram messaging app that a clause in Russia's 2020 nuclear doctrine says Russia could use a nuclear weapon in response to an attack with conventional weapons "when the very existence of the state is put under threat." "This should be remembered," he wrote. Medvedev has threatened nuclear strikes on Ukraine before. Reuters

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4. Maryland election official resigns after Jan. 6 riot arrest

A top Maryland election official, Carlos Ayala, resigned Thursday after being arrested on charges of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Ayala, wearing a "Stop the Steal" button, allegedly scaled a police barricade during the riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump. He was carrying a black flag that said "We the People" and had an image of an assault-style rifle, according to the criminal complaint unsealed after his Tuesday arrest. The flag was captured on video being hoisted through a window where Capitol Police were trying to block rioters. The Maryland Senate in March 2023 confirmed Ayala as one of the state GOP's two representatives on the five-member Board of Elections, which oversees elections. The Washington Post

5. Inflation ticked higher in December due to housing, fuel costs

Inflation edged up in December due largely to higher housing and energy costs, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The consumer price index rose 3.4% in December from a year earlier, slightly more than economists had expected and up from November's 3.1%. Core inflation, excluding volatile fuel and food costs, fell slightly to 3.9% year-to-year, just above estimates but below 4% for the first time since May 2021. Inflation dropped by nearly half in 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported, while real wages grew. The inflation declines in previous months fueled hope the Federal Reserve would soon start cutting interest rates, but December's data showed it will still be challenging to get inflation down to the central bank's 2% target. The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press

6. Pentagon watchdog investigates Austin hospitalization secrecy

The Defense Department inspector general's office announced Thursday it would start an investigation this month into Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's secrecy over his recent hospitalization. Austin was sent to the Walter Reed Medical Center on Jan. 1 after developing serious and painful complications from prostate cancer surgery in December, none of which the White House knew about until several days after Austin returned to the hospital. The apparent breach of protocol sparked outrage from politicians. The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has indicated it also plans to hold an inquiry, which could involve public hearings later in the year as President Joe Biden campaigns for reelection. CNN, The Washington Post

7. Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to tax charges

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty Thursday in a Los Angeles federal court to tax charges filed after the collapse of a plea deal that would have averted a trial while his father, President Joe Biden, runs for reelection this year. Hunter Biden was indicted last month on charges that include neglecting to pay federal income tax on time from 2016 to 2019. During that period, Hunter Biden was fighting alcohol and crack cocaine addiction. The indictment says he "willfully" failed to pay $1.4 million he owed the Internal Revenue Service, instead spending heavily on such things as "drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels" and "exotic cars." Biden's lawyers say he has since paid what he owed, with interest. Los Angeles Times, Reuters

8. Taiwan heads into elections amid tensions with China

Political parties in Taiwan are making a final appeal for votes Friday ahead of Saturday presidential and parliamentary elections being held as the self-governed island faces increasing pressure from China, which views it as a rogue province. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which promotes Taiwan's separate identity, is running Vice President Lai Ching-te — whom Beijing has called a dangerous separatist — as its presidential candidate, hoping to win a third straight term for the party. Opposition candidate Hou Yu-ih, whose Nationalist Party favors a conciliatory approach to China, trails by just a few percentage points in polls. Third-party candidate Ko Wen-je has been gaining support with a focus on domestic issues but remains a long shot. The New York Times, Reuters

9. Spain's first parliamentarian with Down syndrome breaks barrier

Mar Galcerán, 45, has become the first person with Down syndrome to serve in a regional parliament in Spain. Galcerán joined the conservative People's Party when she was 18, attracted by its embrace of tradition, according to The Guardian. She slowly worked her way up the ladder in the party until being added last May to a list of candidates in Valencia's regional elections. When she won, she joined a small number of people with Down syndrome who have broken barriers to enter politics in the last few years. "It's unprecedented," Galcerán told The Guardian. "Society is starting to see that people with Down syndrome have a lot to contribute. But it's a very long road." The Guardian

10. Patriots, Bill Belichick part ways after 24 years

The New England Patriots and longtime coach Bill Belichick announced Thursday that they "mutually agreed" to part ways, ending a 24-year tenure in which Belichick led the football team to six Super Bowl wins in nine appearances. Belichick and legendary quarterback Tom Brady built a "19-year dynasty," The Boston Globe reported, during which most opponents "regarded Brady as the greatest quarterback and Belichick as the greatest coach of all time." But the team went downhill after Brady left in March 2020. The Patriots have gone 29-38 since then, missing the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. The team just finished their season with a 4-13 record. The Boston Globe

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